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N.J. governor says he’d consider banning recreational pot for off-duty cops

The remarks came after the state attorney general last week said officers would be allowed to use legal weed off duty

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By Matt Arco

TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday he’s open to changing rules on legal recreational marijuana in New Jersey to effectively bar police officers in the state from getting high while they’re off duty.

The governor’s remarks come as recreational weed is set to be sold legally for the first time at a handful of locations in the Garden State beginning Thursday.

According to a memo from acting state Attorney General Matthew Platkin last week, off-duty police officers in New Jersey are permitted to consume cannabis products and should not face discipline for doing so under the state’s legal marijuana law.

But some lawmakers have voiced concern about off-duty cops getting high because marijuana stays in peoples’ systems longer and it’s harder to track whether somebody is currently under the influence.

[EARLIER: N.J. cops can’t be punished for using legal weed off duty, attorney general says]

“There’s no allowing anybody to show up impaired, whether you’re drinking or whether you’ve smoked weed,” Murphy said Monday at an unrelated public event in Ewing. “Anybody who shows up impaired would be dealt with aggressively.”

The governor added: “Would I be opened minded to a legislative fix that would address this? The answer is yes.”

The law passed after voters in New Jersey approved a constitutional amendment in November 2020 allowing the regulated sale of cannabis products to people 21 and older.

Platkin, the state’s top law enforcement official, sent the memo to police chiefs and directors “reminding” them that the Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act Murphy signed into law 14 months ago says departments “may not take any adverse action against any officers because they do or do not use cannabis off duty.”

But there have been critics when it comes to law enforcement.

“As Mayor & Pro Law Enforcement Senator I respectfully disagree w/ directives to allow off-duty police officers to smoke weed. With cannabis remaining in one’s system for 30 days; police will subject themselves to never ending lawsuits & questioning of their (judgments),” state Sen. Paul Sarlo, D- Bergen, said in a statement on Twitter.

“Let me be clear the directive is a product of the law that was enacted,” Sarlo added. “I am hopeful we can modify the law to match all the other states that have zero tolerance for use of off duty cannabis by police.”

Unlike alcohol, for which there is reliable breathalyzer testing for intoxication, marijuana lacks a scientifically equivalent and immediate evaluation. Cannabis Usage can be detected in urine and other tests weeks after consumption. The law sets out protocols to make sure people on the job are not impaired.

Sarlo’s statement shows there’s bipartisan support to tweak the state’s rules when it comes to pot use for police.

State Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer, R- Gloucester, issued a statement last week criticizing Platkin, noting that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

“Anyone who wants to work in public safety must be held to higher standards,” Sawyer’s statement said.

NJ Advance Media staff writer Susan K. Livio contributed to this report.

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